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Can someone identify this herb?

My husband brought this back from the market in Greece, but forgot what it was called. It looked a bit like flat leaf parsley but was tougher and more hairy. It tasted delicious in salad and tabouleh. Anyone know what it is?

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  1. Your mention of "hairy" made me wonder if it was a variety of greek oregano similar to this one: http://images.flowers.vg/1024x768/ore... maybe?

    1. My guess would be a type of oregano as well.

      1. Lovage, maybe? It wasn't in my dictionary but via Google, the Greek word is λεβίστικο if that rings a bell with your husband.

        2 Replies
        1. re: MikeG

          I don't think it was origano, unless it was a really obscure type, but I've seen the origano they sell at the market and it's different. The size of the leaves was about the size of celery leaves. It looks a bit the photos of lovage I see on the internet but hairy. Can you get hairy lovage?

          1. re: loukoumades

            It's not something I eat (or see) often, but I don't recall lovage being particularly "hairy" if you mean long filaments like in that oregano photo. What caught my attention was your description (and use) of it as parsley-like, but I don't know what other parsley varieties/relatives might be available there.

        2. It's definitely not Lovage (this is: http://www.plantsciences.ucdavis.edu/... ) and it's definitely not Greek Oregano (this is: http://herbfresh.com/store/images/gre... ). It's frustrating me because it looks so familiar and I can't put my finger on it!

          1. could it be borrage.......a few years ago I grew some and it was kind of hairy and tasted like a mild cucumber.

            1. It appears to be in the mint family.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Kelli2006

                It doesn't look like the photos of borrage I see on the internet. I don't know how well you can see in the photo I attached, but the leaves are tooth edged. It didn't taste too minty either. Closer to parsley I'd say. Maybe it's a kind of hairy, wild parsley. Does that exist?

                1. re: loukoumades

                  Wild parsley looks like Queen Anne's lace, so that is obviously out. The shape pf the leaf and the hairs tell me that it is in the mint family, but the mint family includes oregano, marjoram.

                  My daughter had a summer internship with the state agricultural research dept this past summer so I will Email her a link and maybe she will have a idea.

                1. re: septocaine_queen

                  Yeah that does look close although the leaves of horehound are a bit more bumpy and the tooth edges less pronounced. I'll ask a market vendor if they have horehound and see what he says.

                  1. re: loukoumades

                    Doesnt horehound taste a bit like licorice or rootbeer. I must say, your plant looks like horehound to me, especially with the hairy aspect.

                2. Looks a lot like

                  Borage -- borago? Used in tabouli, tastes a bit like cucumber.

                  Chervil -- Anthrískos?

                  Perilla -- shiso -- beefsteak?

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    I don't think it's borage.
                    Chervil is more feathery. Also - is chervil hairy? This herb really was quite hairy. The stems were thick-ish too - thicker than flat leaf parsley.
                    Had to look up Perilla on wikipedia. It seems like it grows in Asian countries so it's unlikely they had it at a local greek market.
                    It's really bugging me now. I'm going to have to go to the market and ask one of the sellers.

                    1. re: loukoumades

                      Borage is thick and has hairs.

                      Perilla (shiso) is used fairly often in Greek cooking.

                      Good luck.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        Definitely not Borage. The leaf shape is totally different: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_KOANLi2W44U...

                        And definitely not Perilla: http://www.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katzer/pi...

                        or Shiso: http://www.plantnames.unimelb.edu.au/...

                        Horehound looks very close but the leaves in the OP's photo appear to be more obviously lobed.

                        1. re: morwen

                          Let's not be so quick to shoot ideas down, especially when we don't have the actual herb in front of us and are dealing with online photos and slight variations between species.

                          I chose herbs that are used in Greek cooking, and have my own pictures that are very close in resemblance.

                          But right now, the identity of the mystery herb is...still a mystery.
                          We'll have to wait to see what the farmer's market vendor says.

                          Your picture of Borage looks quite close, as does the one I'm using for reference. Moreover, borage is used in tabouleh in Greece, to which the OP refers. Borage has thick stems and is hairy, but when young the leaves look just like the OP's pic.

                          Perilla and Shiso are the same thing. It's found often in Greek farmers markets and is used in Greek and in Asian cooking. I think it's a good guess. We use it in California fairly often. The plant varies widely in color and leaf shape. and has a fuzziness but not hairiness. When large, the leaf has a serrated edge, but not so much when small, when it closely resembles the OP's photo. I've seen firsthand baby perilla./shiso in bunches and love the stuff, and have also seen the frilly type of shiso that's in your second pic (though haven't seen the purple perilla in your first pic).

                          Like you, I thought the OP's herb might be horehound -- looks very much like it -- but horehound isn't used in cooking much.

                          The OPs photo also looks like chervil, used all over Greece, but chervil isn't

                          We'll have to wait and see what the answer is.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            I have quite an extensive herb garden containing so far every herb mentioned. I know it's none of the above and provide pictures of those named so the differences can be noted. Unfortunately, I can find nothing in any of my identifier books or go-to websites that has a photo of an herb that comes close to the OP's photo. I know I've seen it before, the three lobed deeply veined, scalloped leaves in sets of three, on what appear to be square-ish stems. The green with a greyish overtone. What I can't see is if the leaf sets alternate or are opposite to one another. I don't know what the herb is but I do know what it's not. I also knew it wasn't chervil because it's not anywhere close to any chervil I've grown nor any that came up in a simple search. http://images.google.com/images?hl=en...
                            And yes, shiso and perilla are the same plant but again there are many varieties and they don't all resemble each other, thus the two pictures showing the differences both found under different names.
                            I'm continuing to look because I'm intrigued, it looks familiar and I can't place it. Someone will have an aha moment sooner or later.

                            1. re: morwen

                              I've put a larger image here, which might help:

                              Maria Lorraine - that's interesting you say shiso is sold in greek markets and used in greek cooking. I've never encountered it. But I'm no expert. Even our small local market often has bunches of wild herbs and greens I've never heard of. What kind of dish is it used in, do you know the greek name by any chance?

                              Next market is on Tuesday (missed yesterday's) so i'll ask then.

                              1. re: loukoumades

                                Don't know the Greek name but perilla is what it's often called. It's used in many dishes in (modern) Greek cooking -- has a very distinctive light taste.

                        2. re: maria lorraine

                          Perilla (shiso) is used a lot in asian cooking.

                          We've grown it in our garden -- ours was not hairy like this mystery herb.

                          1. re: karykat

                            It definites can't be horehound, not if you used it in salads in a parsley like manner. Horehound in its natural raw state is quite bitter. I'm addicted to good horehound candy but I freely admit that if there wasnt all that sugar in there I wouldnt be able to get it down (and the candy is still a little bitter).

                            I'm not sure if this is a possibility as I don't know whethere people actually eat this (though I think they do) but to me the leaves look a bit like Henbit

                            1. re: jumpingmonk

                              Yes, it does look like henbit. Also like lemon balm, hyssop, skullcap -- members of the mint family, like kelli2006 said.

                    2. I read through, did we decide on a flavor profile for your herb? That might help.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: DallasDude

                        I wish I could remember better what it tasted like now. Something like a cross between camomile, lemon and parsley, quite flowery, fragrant and mild. Less coarse than parsely. No strong aniseed taste as I recall. Is that vague enough for you?

                      2. This is the closest I've come in my search and I'm not totally convinced it's right: http://www.biologie.uni-regensburg.de...

                        It's Calamintha sylvatica ssp. ascendens commonly called Cretan Calamint. It's listed as a culinary/beverage herb. It has the lobed, scallop-edged, fuzzy leaves of the OP's photo but they don't appear to be growing in sets of three. It's described as having a "sweet aroma and flavor".

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: morwen

                          I've grown Calamintha and I would describe its smell taste as more minty than floral. ranted mine was Calamithia officonale, sylvaticum may smell and taste different (hey if there exists a species of thyme that smells and tastes just like caraway, almost anything is possible.

                        2. It sure looks to me like either Cuban or South American oregano of some sort. I had neighbors several years back that were from south America (been too long don't remember which country, sorry) and they looked at my greek oregano and didn't even recognize it. They said their oregano was thick-leaved and kind of furry. I've since gone with Mexican oregano because it's so much better than the Greek, in my opinion. But those leaves look like the Cuban oregano I've seen at my fabulous favorite nursery.

                          Shoot- I just reread the OP and if it was from Greece, I have no idea what it is...

                          1. Mystery solved! I saw it at the market again today. It's Mediterraean Hartwort apparently, Kaukalithres in Greek. Used in herb and spinach pies.

                            2 Replies
                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                No, neither had I. But I bought a load more. It's got this great smell, I'm going to try it in risotto with wild greens.

                            1. This herb is called Kafkalithres (small hartwort). I haven't read all the comments but hope this answers your question,